Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki)

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Paleo Cabbage Rolls |

Paleo Cabbage Rolls are like comfort food to me!

These satisfying little rolls of meat and cabbage take me back to my childhood, and having a Polish grandmother meant that golumbki were often on the menu when we went to visit. When I made this recipe, I instantly reminisced about her standing in the kitchen cooking for all of us. Traditionally, golumbki are made with rice so I substituted cauliflower to give a similar look and texture.

Grandma always used a can of Campbell’s tomato soup (contains corn syrup and gluten!) to pour over the golumbki while they cook, but I used plain crushed tomatoes to give the same flavor without any weird ingredients.

This one takes a little bit of time to prepare so to make up for it, I threw it all in the slow cooker on low for 5 hours—you could bake them in the oven at 350°F for about 90 minutes. Or to make the process super easy, layer the ingredients in a dish, lazy-style.

Recently, I re-photographed this recipe, so if you’re thinking it looks new, that’s why. I think you’ll agree it’s an improvement!

Paleo Cabbage Rolls |

Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Serves 6 to 8
  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 1 lb (454 g) grassfed ground beef
  • 1 lb (454 g) lean ground pork
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ white onion, diced finely
  • 1-1/2 cups of riced or grated cauliflower
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz (235 mL) crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz (118 mL) tomato sauce (not pasta sauce)
  1. Rice or grate the cauliflower. I use the grating attachment on my food processor or you could grate by hand, but it's a pain in the butt. Save 1-1/2 cups for this recipe and the rest for something else. It's tasty fried up in this side dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  3. Put a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. To prepare the cabbage for rolling, you'll lightly boil it whole and peel the leaves off a few at a time. Cut the core out of the cabbage and place in the pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. As the leaves soften, you can peel them off with a spoon. Take care not to rip them in half. The whole process usually takes about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can throw the whole cabbage in and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. The outermost leaves will become very soft but still usable. In either case, peel as many of the leaves off as you can and let cool a bit.
  4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of coconut oil or your fat of choice. Add the onion and grated cauliflower and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the cauliflower is softened. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Combine the onion and cauliflower with the meat, and mix by hand to incorporate all the ingredients.
  6. Roll the golumbki by holding a cabbage leaf, concave side up with the stem toward you, and placing a large spoonful of the meat mixture at the stem end. Then roll forward, fold the sides in and end with the seam down.
  7. Mix the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce in a bowl. Put ~1 cup in the bottom of the slow cookers (or casserole dish). Lay the golumbki in with the seam side down. Cover with the remaining tomato mixture once the slow cooker is full.
  8. For a slow cookers, cook on low for 5 hours. If using the oven, cover the top of the dish with foil and bake for 90 minutes at 350°F (177°C).


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118 thoughts on “Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki)

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  2. Dinah Cox-Moore

    Just made this for lunch for my coworkers today and it was a major hit!! My only changes were, I used petite diced tomatoes since I didn’t have crushed, and used a whole 15 ounce can of sauce. I added a tablespoon of fresh minced basil to the tomato part. Served it with some green can parm cheese. it was awesomeness on a plate!

  3. Mandy

    Have you ever tried freezing these? Would love to do that since it would be just my boyfriend and I. Thanks!

    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Mandy! Great question. I’m always a little leery of freezing veggies because they have a tendency to get mushy. That being said, I think if you pulled some out of the crockpot a bit earlier than the rest (making certain the meat was cooked of course) that it might work. It’s just me cooking for myself right now and one batch made a lot but I ate it all within about 3 days.

    2. andrea

      I am polish and at all of our relatives weddings this was the main dish. My grandma and aunts and mom would make enough to feed 300-400 people. They did use rice though and topped with canned crushed tomatoes and sauce. They made them the month of the wedding and froze them after baking and heated them up starting the morning of wedding and they tasted great! Funny also, My one cousin had her wedding catered with beef and chicken and everyone asked where were the stuffed cabbage!!!

      1. Steph Post author

        Thanks so much for the great memory, Andrea! Reminds me of my grandma’s church friends making hundreds of pierogi at a time! Good to know that they will freeze well. Thanks very much for checking it :)

  4. liz

    To save your fingers/ hands/ sanity – cut the core out of a whole head of cabbage when it is fresh and stick the whole thing in the freezer before you make your cabbage rolls. Then pull it out in the morning, stick it in the sink to defrost during the day.. you’ll have softened/ soured leaves and you won’t need to burn your fingers over a boiling pot of water!

    1. Linda

      Steph, thanks for sharing the recipe and Liz, thank you for a great tip! It’s one of those things you read and say to yourself “why didn’t I think of that?”.

        1. Tim Plummer

          Just tried my first cabbage Roll and IT WAS AWESOME! I’m starting the Whole30 next week and this will be a staple in my diet. Thanks Steph

  5. Jane

    OMG! Made tonight and it is, BY FAR, my new fav paleo recipe. Next time I will mix a bit more sauce. I got 15 rolls out of my recipe (small ones towards the center leaves) and could have used a bit more sause on those last three. Yummmmm. It is a bit time intensive, but save it for the weekend. WELL WORTH THE TIME!

    1. Steph Post author

      Jane, this is so great to hear, especially since this recipe means a lot to me personally (as it reminds me of my grandmother). I’m very glad you took the time to let me know.

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  7. katie

    I was bummed with the results. The meat was tasty, but the sauce was like water. Is that how it typically turns out for you? Hubby did not like, which stinks because they did take all day to prepare and make. :(

    1. steph123

      My mom takes the liquid (typically out of a pressure cooker) after the cabbage and meat is cooked and mixes it with another mixture of bacon grease and flour that she’s heated in a small saucepan. This adds amazing flavor and thickness the gravy. It’s to die for!

      1. Steph Post author

        Wow!! I wonder if it would work with another flour (I’m sensitive to gluten) but I like what she’s done there by making a roux with the bacon fat! Genius!

  8. Kelley

    LOVED this. The addition of riced cauliflower in the meat was perfect. I added a few of my fave spices: cumin, curry, etc., and the final result was perfection. Made in crock pot like you suggested. Will be making in future.

  9. loretta

    Hi, I tried making these tonight. They just came out of the oven and look and smell delicious, but I’m afraid the meat is not cooked through. Should I have browned the meat mixture first or should it look a little pink still?

    1. Steph Post author

      They should be cooked all the way through if you’re uncomfortable eating slightly underdone ground meat.

  10. Cheryl

    I make these wonderful bundles in very – very large batches. What I do is roll a very large amount of them and lay them on a plastic wrap lined cookie sheet not touching. Freeze them. once frozen I put them in large freezer zip lock bags. ON busy days in the morning I layer some frozen into my crock pot with the tomato sauce and cook till I get home after work. They freeze and cook like a dream. Thank you for a great recipie.

  11. Weronika

    it tastes amazing even without any sauce ! I’m eating it very often since i was a little girl and it allways tastes amazing! My mother does it best! And in many , many ways… love it :)

  12. Corina

    Made these tonight and they are amazing! Even my husband who does not like to eat healthy couldn’t quit eating them.

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  14. Mel Pelchat

    Can’t wait to try this receipe. My Polish grandma would make this for me too. Using Campbell’s tomato and a can of French onion soup. Will try your modified version. Thanks for the receipe.

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  16. kate

    Looking forward to making these. By the way, they sound lovely as is, but if you want to make something that tastes eerily similar to canned tomato soup (without all the crap ingredients) blend half a roasted acorn squash (roasted cut side down til soft and lightly caramelized) with one can of tomatoes- it’s uncanny!

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  19. Madeleine

    Very close to the recipe my mother and grandmother passed down to me. We always add an egg to the meat mixture and parsley, plus the secret ingredient in the sauce. Bury a cinnamon stick (must be a stick; ground cinnamon will not work) in the sauce. Delicious!

  20. Jill

    Great recipe! I love that you can’t even tell it’s cauliflower and not rice! It rivals my moms recipe! One thing she always added was sliced kielbasa to the top before baking, try it, it’s awesome!

  21. Jazmin Rdz

    I made this recupe last week and it was awsome! I doubled the recipe to freeze half, so next week I’m planning to eat cabbage rolls again ;-) I just hace a question, what do you serve this with?? I’m having trouble with the side dishes… Thanks in advance!!!

  22. MParentWetmore

    Dear Steph,
    I have made this twice, both times it came out wonderful! My husband and sons love it. Terrific blog and recipes, thank you.

  23. Lori

    My mom use to make these all the time. At some point she decided to slice/shred the cabbage, brown the meat and cook the rice first, mix it all together and bake it like a casserole!!! It’s equally as delicious :)

  24. Victoria

    Mine is in the oven, so excited!! used rice and fresh basil sauteed with the onions and some fresh seasonings, but it looks awesome!! family is eagerly awaiting :)

  25. Denise

    I want to make this to take to a family that just had a baby. Any suggestions on sides to go with it? Thanks!

    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Denise! That’s so thoughtful of you. Is it going to be prepared ahead of time and frozen or will you be giving it to them fresh? If fresh, I’d suggested maybe a garden salad or something light to complement the dish.

  26. Diane

    Had my son’s wedding catered last weekend (beef & chicken), but made “pigs in the blankets” for the rehearsal dinner to keep up with my Polish family’s traditions! We always add nutmeg to the seasonings, and cook them in V-8 juice instead of tomato sauce. Delicious!

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    1. Steph Post author

      Hi Mel,

      It’s hard to give an exact number of rolls because cabbages leaves vary so much in size. This will easily feed 6 adults, possibly with some leftovers if you serve a side dish. I heat them over med-low heat in a skillet (toss in a little water to create some steam) with a lid on until the centers are warm.

    1. Heath

      1.5 hours at 350 convection charred the tops. That being said, flavor is nice. The meat mixture would do well in many recipes.

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  29. Melinda

    I am from Australia and I’m not sure what exactly you mean as tomato sauce. Here tomato sauce is like ketchup there. Is pasata ok or is to liquid. Thank you. These look amazing and am really looking forward to trying the recipe.

    1. Steph Post author

      It’s basically crushed tomatoes, but not as thick as tomato paste. I’m sorry…not sure what you guys call it!

      1. Melinda

        Great, thank you for the quick response. I think it is what is called tomato supreme here. Can’t wait to try these!

  30. Neshia

    I want to try this recipe but do the califlour fice hold up after hours in sa crock pot? Is it mushy or stay the consistency of rice?

  31. Mary

    My husband and I have been on low carb for 12 years. When I make the golumki, i carefully measure out the amount of rice in each cabbage roll. That alliws me to use the rice and still know exactly how many carbs are in each roll. That said, your recipe is very interesting and I think I am going to give it a try.

  32. A

    i make mine into meatballs. We don’t use garlic in our recipe but since my family doesn’t eat the cabbage when it is in roll form, I chop it and add some to the meatballs and the rest I sauté in the pan before browning the meatballs then add the tomato sauce with a little sweetner over the meatballs. I make pretty large meatballs so I cook them in a pan on the stove for at least an hour turning them several times.

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  34. Aline

    Me and my husband grew up eating this, and we have never made it again, because it called for rice. We have a daughter with a genetic mutation, that does not allow her to eat any sugar, and any starch. So this recipe was unfortunately out of the question for out family. UNTIL I FOUND YOUR RECIPE!!!! Thank you so much for the genius idea of substituting the rice for the cauliflower! We omited the garlic and the onion, (Our daughter does not tolerate those due to the high amounts of sucrose and starch), but to make up for the flavor in the meat, I added salt, pepper, parsley leaves, basil leaves, and a dash of cumin. And instead of frying the cauliflower with onion, i used freshly diced tomatoes, and cooked it in olive oil. It came out AMAZING!!!! We served it with lime and olive oil on top, as we have always done. Thank you so much for bringing this recipe back into our household.

  35. Paula

    i just placed them in my crockpot. I don’t have a 5 hr low on my crockpot just 8 and 10 will the 8 hr work if I turn it off in 5 hours? Just want to make sure the meat is cocked.


    1. Michell McKelvy

      Coming from Polish decent, I too grew up eating Golumbki but instead of tomatoes/sauce we layered the rolls with sauerkraut, ending with sauerkraut . It is delicious.

  36. Kathy Osborne

    I made this last night and it was AMAZING.
    I ended up chopping up the cauliflower because I don’t have a food processor, but the florets broke apart very easy and it worked out well.

    Better than any other stuffed cabbage I’ve had before. Thank you!

  37. Lisa

    This recipe is just like grandma’s (with the rice) thanks for posting for all to enjoy! My Granny would add pan fried chopped pork salt to each layer on top of the tomato sauce. It adds some great flavor to your gumpkies! Thanks again for bringing some of us back to our childhood memories!

  38. Andrea

    WOW!! I made this two nights ago and hubs actually helped – he loved how fun it was to make…I loved having extra hands. Anyone with kids I can imagine this would be a fun activity :) They were all different sizes and shapes because so are the cabbage leaves as you get towards the middle – but everything still cooked perfectly!!

    The cauliflower rice was a brilliant addition – it helped hold the meat together without the grain – super smart.

    We used the middle of the cabbage since it was now “boiled” and just sauteed it a little and had it on the side.

    My only thought was the liquid at the bottom of my corningware was thin, so i couldn’t really spoon extra sauce on my plate. So for anyone that THIS happens to, what I did was pull the rolls out and put on a platter to cool off (cause they are super hot right out of the oven). I put the corningware on the stove top on medium-high and just super simmered the liquid until it reduced by about half! It was awesome and “spoonable at that point”.

    Thanks for such a great recipe!!!

    1. Steph Post author

      Perfect solution to reduce the sauce a bit. Some cabbages can have a lot more moisture than others so that could be why the sauce was thinner :)

  39. Lisa James

    This is a New Year’s Day traditional meal for our family. I’m the fourth generation to do it. We also chop up the extra cabbage, add sauerkraut and tomatoes to the pot and serve with mashed potatoes. Love them so much and don’t know why we never have them any other day during the year.

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  42. Cindy

    I have never made them this way, I usually make them with almond flour, coconut flour or flax for a binder and added mushrooms and onions to be filler. I will have to try your way and compare!

  43. bianca

    I had some italian sausages already in my freezer so I removed the meat from the casings and used it for the 1lb pork it was superb!

  44. Katie_pl

    Omg I was thinking about making them the other day and today i saw your recipe, so it prove that using cauliflower instead of rice works! I’m Polish and this is my favourite dish from my childhood! Love it! My mum used to cook it in vegetable stock and then topped with tomato sauce or freeze it before cooking for later! Your recipe is so similar to my mums:) And where I come from we say ‘Golabki’ but that doesn’t matter! Thank you for another great idea!!!


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